November 6, 2013
Real World Cannonball Run Sets New Record
A trio of car enthusiasts broke the “Cannonball Run” record, driving from New York City to Los Angeles in less than 29 hours, CNN reported. 28-year old Atlanta native Ed Bolian, along with co-driver Dave Black and spotter Dan Huang, a student at George Tech, did the cross country jaunt in a Mercedes CL55 that included two extra gas tanks, plus a plethora of gizmos and gadgets to help on the journey.
These included a radar jammer, police scanner, two GPS units, laser jammer and even a switch to kill the rear lights to make the car less noticeable at night.
This certainly is a far cry from the cars in the 1981 movie version of the famous (or should I say infamous) cross-country race. Yes, there really is a real Cannonball Run. While the movie — which starred Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Dom Deluise, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. — was about a colorful cast of characters taking part in a race, the real version of the race typically featured high performance auto enthusiasts.
The 1976 movie The Gumball Rally is closer to the truth, yet still features a police officer out to get the racers.
Looking at either of these films today reveals a lot about the era. The Gumball Rally noted that the 55 mph speed limit of the era was slow enough to make people think it was safe (there was a campaign that said “55 saves lives”), but in fact was still a very dangerous speed. The truth is that the 55 mile per hour speed limit was about the energy crisis of the era and had far less to do about saving lives.
The Cannonball Run, being the far more silly of the two, tried to be over the top in many ways. It featured cruder humor and more outrageous gags. But it also is far more dated in some ways. For example, would anyone seriously joke about the amount of beer one team loads into the van in The Cannonball Run, or laugh about Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. being more “juiced up” than their Ferrari? Drinking and driving is hardly a laughing matter.
Both films also suggest that there is nothing really dangerous about a high speed race on public roads, and perhaps this latest stunt in real life only builds on that notion.
Not to sound like the ultimate spoil sport, but Bolian and his team took some serious risks. The CNN story noted they looked for just the right cycle of the moon, choose a weekend for the trip, determined the best route and did most of the high-speed driving at night and in wide open highways.
However, the average speed was still 98 miles per hour and a maximum speed of 150 miles per hour. Moreover, the two drivers had barely any sleep during the 28 hour trip. That is a major concern, as tired driving can be as dangerous as the aforementioned drunk driving. Factor in the numerous gizmos and gadgets, and even with a spotter, you have to wonder how the driver wasn’t at least partially distracted.
Sure, there are actual rallies around the world, but those aren’t on public roads where other people could get hurt or killed.
What is most disturbing is that the media reports, beyond CNN’s, seem to delight in this rebellious ride. Imagine, however, if someone got hurt? Imagine if Bolian and his team caused an accident? OK, so they didn’t.
Now Bolian, Black and Huang have set a record, but records are meant to be broken. What might happen next time? It is enough to make me glad I typically fly coast-to-coast instead. God speed to those who might just see a Mercedes or another tricked out car blow past them in the wee hours of the night.
Image Credit: Golden Harvest Company